Stunning Islands In The South Pacific That Aren't Bora Bora

It’s easy to understand why Bora Bora is at the top of so many traveller’s bucket lists, but this honeymoon hotspot is not all there is to see in the South Pacific. A trip to the hidden depths of Oceania adds new meaning to the term “frontier”; yet, some islands are worth travelling to the ends of the earth for. Whether you’re a dedicated diver or want to savour the feeling of your own private island, these three divine destinations will fuel your wanderlust while in-between airports.

Cook Islands 🌺

Named as one of the world’s leading island destinations, the Cook Islands is finally receiving the attention it deserves. It’s a more affordable getaway than some of its neighbours, but equally glamorous: if not more so, as the sandy seclusion creates a real private island feel.

That’s not to say that a trip to the Cook Islands equals total isolation. One of the most inviting things this island has to offer are the cultural activities and opportunities to connect with the locals. You can stay social from morning to evening, with a Māori village tour during the day and an enthralling Island Night party. Settle in for traditional dancing, ei katu flower crowns, and plenty of piña coladas to keep you going.

If you’re after textbook tropical, the Cook Islands readily provides that. But the depths of this island will genuinely surprise you, as there is so much more to this destination than sunbathing and snorkelling (though we can hardly complain about that!). Muddy buggies, safari tours and 4WD quad bikes goes against everything you’d expect from a trip to the Pacific — but the best kind of vacations will surprise you like that.

How to get here: There’s non-stop flights available from Auckland, Sydney, Honolulu and Pape’ete.

Ocean paradise in the Cook Islands.

New Caledonia🌲

When you imagine the South Pacific, palm trees likely come to mind. But in New Caledonia, you’ll find a sea of pine in an otherwise tropical landscape. If you took Melanesia and added touches of Vancouver Island into the mix, you may end up with somewhere like this.

New Caledonia’s tourism infrastructure is still in development, but if you prefer the outdoors to mega-resorts, then you’ll appreciate this destination’s down-to-earth attitude. It’s tempting to stay close to the Loyalty Islands — but if you thought pine trees on a tropical island was strange, wait until you see what else this place has to offer.

While the luscious east coast has hiking in Hawaii vibes, you’ll find cowboy country in the west and red desert oasis down south. A trip around New Caledonia feels a little like a whistlestop tour around the world. Best way to see it all? Take a Grand Terre road trip!

How to get here: There’s direct flights available from Sydney, as well as a newly introduced direct route from Singapore.

Sunrise over New Caledonia.

Palau 🪸

Every island claims to be the number one spot for scuba diving, but really, this is it. This tiny archipelago is relatively unknown, but has legendary status within the diving world. Remote Palau is a pain to get to — but the pay-off is experiencing one of the most enchanting underwater landscapes on earth.

There’s blue holes that are at least 20 meters deep, WWII wreck sites discoverable for different abilities, and a thriving marine life that’s easy to spot thanks to the clear waters. It’s hard to say what’s more famous: the limestone rock formations that feels like Halong Bay without the crowds, or the Jellyfish Lake (these golden sea creatures are endemic and sting-free!). Either way, Palau is a paradise for anyone who feels most at home in the water.

With a Four Seasons Explorer boat launched just this year, it’s possible that we could see Palau rise in popularity as a tourist destination. For now, it’s the Pacific’s best-kept secret.

How to get here: There’s a few direct flights available from Brisbane, Seoul and Taipei .

Palau photographed from above.
Header image is of Palau.
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Hannah Douch
April 19, 2024

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